Growing up, I thought my relationship with food was pretty normal.
Poor marks on a test? Have a pack of biscuits. That’ll cheer you up.
Being picked on again? Don’t worry, Mum made Sausage and Mash for dinner. AND there is a cheesecake in the fridge!
Upset? Lonely? Just plain bored? That means it’s time for crisps, sausage rolls, doughnuts with cream….
And so on. I have never been very comfortable around other people; I always feel like I am letting them down or annoying them in some way. This belief made it quite difficult for me to make friends growing up. I buried myself in schoolwork and junk food in order to hide the fact that I was actually desperate for any kind of connection. I made some friends, but all too soon my natural paranoia-do they really like me? Have they been talking behind my back?-would push them away.
This went on all the way through my time at school and then initially into Sixth Form College. I say “Initially” because it was then, at the age of sixteen, I met her. She was in my Government and Politics class, had brown hair, and was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. She made an effort to make friends out of pity. In return, I made her my obsession. I thought that if I could win her over, if I could make her love me, then I could be more than just books and TV and food. I could be a man, a proper man, not a crying little wimp who let bullies walk all over him and never disobeyed his Parents out of fear of letting them down in some way.
Like all obsessions, it didn’t end well. I left Sixth Form College seeing myself much as she probably still sees me-a disgusting, fat, self-entitled idiot whose ugliness and general creepiness was outweighed only by his pomposity and laughable delusions of academic grandeur. Before that summer, I had never looked in the mirror properly-it was just safer to ignore my reflection. But now I could see it. The bullies were right. I was flabby. I was weak. My arms were limp, pale, spindly things jammed awkwardly onto a mound of flesh…..
Soon after, I started running. I was determined to turn myself into someone different. I thought that if I lost weight, then my confidence would increase, my success with the opposite sex would follow suit, I would be able to focus on my writing and University course, and my life would be back on track. My life became all about running and how much weight I could lose by running.
During my time at University, I became obsessed with counting calories and exercise. My portions got smaller. My coursework suffered-I barely managed to graduate with a 2.2. But I was losing weight. I was doing something right, even if I hadn’t managed to make my parents proud or make friends or even get what I perceived as a respectable grade.
My weight continued to fall in the months after I left University. Every failed job application was met with longer runs and less food. I might not have had a job or any kind of future prospects, but at least I had my routine. I least I had my “health”. I may have been prone to panic attacks or depression if my carefully crafted exercise routine was disrupted, but surely everyone disliked having their plans interrupted. Surely?
When I finally managed to get a job at a local supermarket, I panicked. How would I be able to fit in exercise around my shift pattern? I would just end up getting fat again and I would be back to square one. I stopped eating altogether on the days I was working, and began making myself throw up and using laxatives in order to “balance out” the time I spent sat down behind the till. And I still found time every single day to go for a run.
My appearance and energy levels suffered as a result of my lifestyle, and I lost my job. It was then my Parents confronted me head-on about my weight loss and what I might be doing to myself. I ignored them-they were obviously jealous of my commitment to good health. Or didn’t understand I was happy the way I was. Or some sort of flimsy justification for throwing food away, exercising excessively, and making myself purge even the tiniest morsel of food my poor Family managed to get me to force down.
A collapse was inevitable. I ended up in Hospital, hovering just above 8st. It hit me then that if I carried on the way I was, I would die. With the help of my parents and the support of my local NHS mental health team, I managed to stop throwing up and start eating three meals a day again (plus a snack in the morning and a dessert after dinner). After a brief struggle, I even managed to cut down on my exercise.
I have not recovered from my Eating Disorder. I am still prone to setbacks; I lost weight again recently after a period of over-exercising, it’s a real struggle to eat more than 1800 calories a day, and I find myself feeling guilty if I sit still for too long or eat a large meal in front of other people. But I am focusing on the positives.
1) My relationship with food has improved. It’s not a crutch or something to be afraid of. It’s fuel. And hell, sometimes it can be enjoyable.
2) The fact I have not purged or used laxatives since the night I went into Hospital proves I have it in me to make a full recovery. I just need to take it slowly and not feel like a failure if I have a bad day.
3) I may never like the way I look. But I shouldn’t be so vain anyway! If the past few months have taught me anything, it’s that it is what’s inside that counts. Yes, I might be an ugly creep. But how would killing myself make me a better person?
My name is Adam. I am a recovering Anorexic. I have no idea what is coming next. But now I am beginning to appreciate that that is nothing to be afraid of.